Elizabeth C. Gorski’s Cr♥ssw♥rd Nation puzzle (Week 347), “G.I. Series”—Janie’s take
“G.I.,” and no, not as in “gastrointestinal,” so no barium “cocktail” required. Instead, we’re looking at the military use of the term, where the initials stand for Government (or General) Issue, our “universal soldier” in essence. While hierarchically s/he doesn’t scale the heights, today (as we learn at 53D.) is his/her day for [Pulling RANK (exercising one’s authority … or what we’re doing with the circled letters!)]. We’re pulling out the letters PFC (as in Private First Class) in each of the four themers. The four terrific themers, I should add. I salute them!
- 16A. [John le Carré thriller of 1986] A PERFECT SPY. And said to be le Carré’s most autobiographical. I’ve read only one le Carré, and that was Our Game, of which I have no recall whatsoever. That said, looks to me like A PERFECT SPY is inherently far more memorable, and a story I’d really take to. Any other fans of The Night Manager out there? Fabulous (updated) TV-treatment of another le Carré gem.
- 29A. [Film with the line: “Just because you’re a character doesn’t meant that you have character”] PULP FICTION. That would be The Wolf (Harvey Keitel) to Raquel (Julia Sweeney). Great quote and a Tarantino classic .
- 45A. [“Moulin Rouge!” setting] PARIS, FRANCE. My one and only trip there was almost five years ago and I loved every single minute of it. Walked through Montmartre and saw the building itself. Given this happy association (even with the charmless way its facade has been altered…), I’m predisposed to loving this fill. (The movie in the clue? Um. No so much.)
- 63A. [Retroactively] EX POST FACTO. After the fact. The only themer with no “cultural” reference, but a good crunchy phrase that keeps things lively. I’ll take it. (We also get double-crunch with the clue [Crunchy sandwich] leading to both OREO and BLT].)
I had fun solving this one. Yes, I took to the theme quickly and, for the last two themers, filled in the circles before looking at the clues. But that didn’t take away any of the pleasure of seeing the theme phrases fall into place. With all the associations they trigger, that makes for one fine theme set, imho. And one that gets great support from a slew of non-theme fill and clues. The two longest in this category are the alliterative GRABBING ON [Getting a grip?] combo and EMIGRATING, with its geographic-wordplay clue [Moving from Moscow (Russia) to Moscow (Idaho)].
We get a bit of a (figurative) chiaroscuro effect with the light and lively HOOPLA and SILKEN contrasting the darker, more foreboding GLOWER [Angry stare] and FAMINE [One of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse] (whose other buddies include Pestilence, War and Death—a regular bunch o’ fun guys!).
Maybe since it was new info for me, I liked seeing SAFETY clued in its sports context [Two-point football score]. Interesting to see that in some early games, winning teams NOSED out their opponents by virtue of those SAFETY point only. Pretty cool, no? And then, also enjoyed the musicality of the KEY OF C […it has no sharps or flats], HARPS [Angelic instruments] and SING [Warble].
A [Lovers’ quarrel] is a SPAT. After making up, one of the pair might suggest the other carry out a [Valentine candy message] and respond to the request to “KISS ME.“ Yes, the word KISS represents a clue/fill “dupe,” and yes, they’re in proximity to one another, but… it must’ve been hard for Liz to forego the opportunity of cluing the outspoken TYRA by way of [Banks who told body-shamers to “Kiss my fat ass!”]. (That woulda been almost 11 years ago.)
Corniest entry of the day? Why, that’d be [Parting gifts?] and COMBS… Serendipitously, it crosses SCALP [Hairy or hairless place]—all of which put me in mind of the riddle that seemed hilarious in the 4th grade: What did the bald man say when he received a comb on his birthday? “It’s a gift I’ll never part with!” [Rimshot.] Along those (corny) lines, was part of the Women’s March on New York City over the weekend (which was genuinely “FAB!”), where one of my favorite signs read “We Shall Overcomb!”
Which brings me to a close for today. Did I miss one of your faves? Do speak up! See ya next week, and Keep Solving!
Queena Mewers’s & Alex Eaton-Salners’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Q & A” — Laura’s write-up
Q: What is the theme of this puzzle?
A: This is the theme of this puzzle.
Q: What are the first initials of the two constructors?
A: Q & A
- [20a: Anakin Skywalker’s love]: QUEEN AMIDALA
- [33a: Its planes feature a kangaroo on the tail]: QANTAS AIRWAYS
- [39a: Found fault with]: QUIBBLED ABOUT
- [53a: Utah’s state tree]: QUAKING ASPEN
Whenever there’s a Q-heavy theme, I’m always qurious to see what qonstructors choose for the qrossings, particularly if quotidian qu- words have been qompromised. IRAQI, QUITE, AQUA, QTIP here; good qall. Also if you’re going to qollaborate on a Q&A-themed puzzle, make sure your partner in qrime is named Queena.
Quality Abounds in the fill:
- ACH, the German auto industry is well-represented: BMW, AUDI, VWBUG
- [1a: Book jacket info: Abbr.]: ISBN. My faithful readers, all four of you, will remember that I have often QUIBBLED ABOUT clues for ISBN, which invariably have fallen along the lines of [Library ID] or some such nonsense. It looks like someone has finally listened to me and clued it accurately.
- [42d: Big Ben sound]: BONG. Yeah brb gotta fire up my Big Ben Sound.
- Jethro Tull Fan Shoutout: [35d: Watery blue]: AQUA next to [36d: Organ of inspiration?]: LUNG.
- Is an EERIE LEI what H. P. Lovecraft wore to the Cthuluau?
Q and U solve crosswords for like a second, in this video:
Jim Hilger’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
Who on earth scheduled this puzzle, with this fill, for a Tuesday slot? None of these should be in a puzzle unless it’s specifically aimed at that contingent of solvers well over the age of 60 who wish Eugene Maleska were still the editor:
- 19d. [Coins of ancient Athens], OBOLI.
- 56d. [Anatomical canal], ITER.
- 52a. [El Al hub city], LOD.
The theme revealer is 68a. SPREAD, [Apt word to follow each row of circled letters]. The circled letters in the various rows spell out WING, CHEESE, MAGAZINE, MIDDLE AGE, POINT, and BED.
You can, of course, solve this puzzle without paying the slightest attention to the theme, but it would feel like those throwaway crosswords that don’t contain any theme, nor any exciting fill. ISTANBUL and PREMONITION are solid. UNPAID BILL feels maybe a little green paintish? WHERESOEVER is sort of an odd word that we don’t use too often.
Five more things:
- 30a. [T-X connection], UVW. In the aesthetics of letter runs, I gotta say, UVW is on the ugly end of the spectrum.
- 42a. [Mork’s TV pal], MINDY. You know the characters got married, right? The show ended 35 years ago, so this isn’t exactly a secret.
- 6d. [Calif.-to-Fla. route], I-TEN. Nobody spells out interstate highway route numbers outside of crossword grids. This is a convention I do not care for.
- 35d. [End of a line on the Underground?], ZED. It’s well known that Londoners love to recite the alphabet while riding the subway. … Isn’t it?
- 57d. [Royal title], SIRE. I wonder if this is currently in use. Does one address the men of the English monarchy as “Sire”? Are there other English-speaking monarchies with kings these days?
2.25 stars from me. I didn’t enjoy the solve.
Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ Crossword, “Oh, It’s ON” – Derek’s write-up
It is definitely ON! Each theme answer has those very initials. Can you think of any others?
- 18A [Image transmitter to the brain] OPTIC NERVE
- 35A [Dress rehearsal follower] OPENING NIGHT
- 43A [Potential award winner usually announced in January] OSCAR NOMINEE
- 62A [2019 and 2021, e.g.] ODD NUMBERS
Yeah, I can’t think of any others either! Oliver North maybe? Ozzie Nelson? Orange Nehi? OK, maybe I can! But I am tired and not thinking clearly; it has been super hectic at work. But enough of my woes; kudos to Matt for another fun puzzle. 4.3 stars.
Things I found interesting:
- 33A [The Bahamas’ capital] NASSAU – I have been here for a New York minute, but I would love to go back and check out Atlantis. I hear that place is really neat.
- 38A [Bread in an Indian restaurant] NAN – This isn’t always NAAN?
- 51A [TNT drama whose 77th and final episode aired on Christmas 2012] LEVERAGE – NOT available on Netflix. Yet. Or perhaps anymore!
- 68A [“Switched-On Bach” synthesizer] MOOG – Never heard of this album. Wikipedia says it is from 1968 and won the Grammys!
- 1D [6-pt. plays] TDS – As in touchdowns, and we are in Super Bowl season now! Patriots or Eagles?
- 5D [Make more room at a booth, perhaps] SCOOT IN – My favorite entry in the grid! People say this a lot, but I don’t think I have ever seen it before in a grid. (No NYT hits at xwordinfo.com!)
- 49D [Detergent that debuted in 1914] OXYDOL – Never heard of this either. Here is a screen shot of a box not too much past 1914, it looks like!
That is all for this week!
Michael Dewey’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up
We are traveling the world today with several phrases that all end in world cities:
- 20A [1666 conflagration that destroyed St. Paul’s Cathedral] FIRE OF LONDON
- 28A [Raphael fresco depicting Greek philosophers, with “The”] SCHOOL OF ATHENS
- 48A [Gypsum used for casts] PLASTER OF PARIS
- 54A [Pope] BISHOP OF ROME
I think this is the first LAT Tuesday puzzle I have reviewed in quite some time that does NOT have a revealer somewhere! But that is OK; this is nice and simple and it works for an early week puzzle. I don’t know Michael Dewey, but he makes good, simple puzzles! How about 4.2 stars.
A few things:
- 33A [“__-ching!”] CHA – I tried KAH at first. Silly sounds all work!
- 53A [Coastal inlet] RIA – The most crosswordy entry in the grid, but still a decent word to know.
- 8D [Should it arise that] EVEN IF – I think I had EVEN SO in here at first, but that really isn’t the correct meaning.
- 9D [De Niro’s “Raging Bull” role] LA MOTTA – I just now saw The Godfather – Part II, and after that 3 1/2 hours I didn’t know that was De Niro portraying a yound Vito Corleone! (And yes, it IS on Netflix!)
- 45D [At just the right time] APROPOS – I thought this meant more something fit a situation well. The clue seems just a tad off to my quirky English.
Most of the snow here has melted, but it is still cold. It is January, so I won’t complain too much: it does no good!